Viewpoint: Shame on us for not protesting sooner and louder

[Source: Ellen Vojnic, Campe Verde Bugle] — Once again I am reading about the legislature robbing the money allocated to the State Parks system.  A large portion of that money comes from voter-approved measures to support our state treasures.  How can the elected representatives decide to just take that money for other purposes without putting the matter back before voters?

As stated in the commentary this week, much of our tourism dollars come from folks coming to Arizona to visit our State Parks.  We have many very fine parks throughout our state including several right here in the Verde Valley area.

Jerome State Park has been closed for a few months now and not only did the closing not make sense, no money has been saved because the employees were just moved to another park.  Lights are still on at night as usual, just NO revenue coming in.  How do we continue to elect people (state and federal level) who seem to have their own agenda (or special interest group) at heart and not what is best for Arizona as a whole.  No one wants to see people laid off their jobs, but the state government is the largest employer in our state.

Probably the same can be said for the federal government, also.  Labor is always the highest cost and the first place you look when trying to save money in a business.  Most other expenses are not negotiable.  Not only are the State Parks being cut, so has the State Historic Archives been cut off.  What a shame!  Shame on us all for not protesting sooner and louder!

Jerome chamber petitions for reopening of state park

[Source: Philip Wright,] – Chamber of Commerce president Tom Pitts has taken the lead in trying to get the Jerome State Historic Park reopened.  Opened in October of 1965, the Douglas Mansion was operated continuously as the State Historic Park until Arizona State Parks closed it, suddenly, on Feb. 26.  Although the parks board originally targeted the park for closure due to budget constraints, when it finally closed the tourist attraction, it gave “maintenance and repairs” as the reason. Unfortunately, no work or bidding has taken place on the mansion.

Pitts spoke to the Jerome Town Council Tuesday night to update them on his and the chamber’s efforts to reopen the park.  “I put together a petition calling for the reopening of the park,” Pitts said.  He said more than 3,000 signatures of Arizona residents had been collected.  Other signatures from throughout the United States and many other countries were included on the petition.  With the petition, Pitts included a fact sheet based on a 2007 study done by Northern Arizona University on the economic impact of Arizona’s state parks.

Nearly 2.3 million people visited Arizona state parks in 2007, spending more than $162 million.  The Jerome State Historic Park generated more than $7 million income for Yavapai County.  The total visitors to the park during that year was more than 60,000, with 72 percent of them from out of state. Pitts told the council that state officials are actually starting to look at it.  “We’re anxious to get it reopened,” he said.

Arizona towns feel state park closures’ effects on business

[Source: Arizona Daily Star, Associated Press] — Arizona towns that rely on nearby state parks are seeing a big decline in tourism and the dollars that tourists spend.  The state closed Jerome State Historic Park and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park on Feb. 26 after the Legislature cut more than $34 million in park funds to help fill budget gaps.

Art gallery, restaurant and bar owners in Jerome say the nearby state park is a major draw.  Last year, 60,000 people came through Jerome. Researchers at Northern Arizona University say tourists brought $7 million to Yavapai County in 2007.  Payson and other rim communities are coping with the partial closure of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

The park has been open most weekends since Memorial Day, but attendance has plummeted.

State park closures take toll on Arizona towns

[Source: Parker Leavitt, Arizona Republic] — The budget-cut-induced closure of two popular state parks is taking an economic toll on businesses in Jerome and Payson.  Jerome State Historic Park and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park were closed Feb. 26 after the state Legislature cut more than $34 million in park funds to help fill budget gaps.

The park in Jerome remains shuttered.  Tonto Natural Bridge has reopened, but only on weekends. Consequently, hotel bookings have slowed, and shops and restaurants see fewer customers, while a recent Northern Arizona University study suggests the closures could cost the regions several million dollars in annual park-driven revenues.  “There is no question that people up here feel the loss,” Jerome Chamber of Commerce President Tom Pitts said.  “There’s a big hole in the experience here.”

Jerome, Arizona’s smallest incorporated town, is home to an eclectic mix of art galleries, wineries and historic sites.  The state park was a major draw for the community’s tourism industry, helping to lure more than 60,000 visitors in 2008.  “People make traveling decisions based on what they’re going to do when they get here,” said Anne Conlin, owner of the Connor Hotel in Jerome.  “(Guests now) book maybe a one-night stay instead of a two-night stay. Or they just don’t come at all.”

The park includes the historic Douglas Mansion, built in 1916, antique mining attractions and a picnic area with views of the region’s mountains.  [Note: To read the full article, click here]